Celebrities are notorious for their estate planning blunders. I have several posters in my office that document the many mistakes that celebrities have made with regard to their estate planning. From Elvis Presley failing to properly plan for the federal estate tax, to Marilyn Monroe accidentally leaving the royalties of her likeness (worth millions of dollars) to a woman she never even met, to baseball great Ted Williams who did not leave clear instructions about how to handle his remains, it almost seems that failure to get one’s affairs in order is a prerequisite to becoming a star. However, there is one celebrity who recently passed away who might have been a celebrity anomaly.
Actor Burt Reynolds recently passed away at the age of 82. Shortly after his death, articles were published that discussed his estate planning. Some articles even hinted that he might have disinherited his only son, despite the fact that it did not appear that they had a strained relationship. A closer inspection indicates that, to the contrary, the Smokey and the Bandit star actually provided for his son in the best manner possible.
Reynolds’ Will was filed with the local court in Florida. In most states, a decedent’s Will is filed with the local court and is available for public inspection. However, Reynolds’ Will did not reveal much. His Will states in part: “I intentionally omit [my son] from this, my Last Will and Testament, as I have provided for him during my lifetime in my Declaration of Trust.” While at first glance it might appear that Reynolds excluded his son from his estate, upon further inspection, it appears that Reynolds followed the advice of the vast majority of estate planning attorneys by using a Living Trust as a Will-substitute.
By utilizing a Living Trust, Reynolds’ family will not have to endure a lengthy and expensive process known as probate to transfer his assets to his beneficiaries. Furthermore, the details of his assets, his beneficiaries, and the manner in which his beneficiaries inherit his assets remain private. His Will appears to be a “Pour-Over Will,” a Will that simply states that anything he might have forgotten to transfer to his Living Trust during his lifetime shall be distributed to his Living Trust for distribution upon his death.
Reynolds famously admitted that he was not the best when it came to managing his wealth. However, he did appear to do something that millions of Americans – and apparently the vast majority of celebrities – fail to do: establish a comprehensive estate plan as a final and significant gift to his loved ones.
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Disclaimer: This article is for general information only. Reading this article does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Before taking action on any of the information presented in this article, you should consult a competent attorney who is licensed to practice law in your community.